Wednesday, 30 March 2011

April Fool from CPRI

It seems to me that the Santa Fe-based "Cultural Property Research Institute" (an antiquity dealers' advocacy group masquerading as an inefficient "research institute") has got its dates wrong. A text they have released (State Department in Contravention of the Law?) can only be seen as an April Fool joke accidentally published two days early. Still, I suppose that's better than all those promised pieces of "research" which are months overdue.

Among the gems of deadpan humour contained in this obviously satirical text, the reader will spot the following:

- "has disregarded the criteria established by the law that created it", the enquiring reader will ask what might they be, and in what way do they benefit the world's cultural heritage?

- "the Act was intended not just to save objects, but to save context and heritage". Where does it say that? Where? It actually says nothing of the kind in the CCPIA (which in general it has to be admitted is a badly-written text, but that is no excuse for the CPRI making things up).

- "limitations placed by the Act on the ability of the US Government to enter into agreements with other countries to impose import restrictions", eh? This is in an act intended to IMPLEMENT the 1970 UNESCO Convention on what? Oh yes, "on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property", so why did the US government issue an "implementing" act limiting its own ability to actually "implement" the actual measures of the Convention? Why would the US government fail to enter into an agreement with another country who requests it to actually implement the measures implicit in becoming a state party to the Convention? That's just plain daft, but then all of this US pretence to be implementing the Convention is plain double daft. Let the US just end the farce and withdraw from the Convention they have for nearly three decades obviously had no intention of fully honouring. Let the existing Wild West ethos of much of the US antiquity market show itself for what it is.

- "a
provision requiring U.S. restrictions to be part of a "concerted international response" had been violated" eh? So where actually is this mythical "provision"? Where? How can you "violate" a provision that is not there?

- "in a manner that discriminated against Americans and that moved the trade abroad". Like keeping Chinese artefacts from being illegally exported FROM China? Isn't that what the 1970 Convention "on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property" supposed to do? What did the Americans think it was supposed to do when they became a state party? And how funny, an American law which affects Americans in America and not foreigners living outside America.

"Seminar summary at Full transcript available soon". Can they manage it by April 1st?

The comedy is continued by that master of black humour, D.C. lawyer Peter Tompa, who asks "A related question is whether the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is listening or whether Assistant Secretary Anne Stock and her staff remain tone deaf as ever". Listen to what? The inventive rantings of the lunatic fringe of the US no-questions-asked market in dugup antiquities? That is a real joke.

What on earth is New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand thinking of aligning herself with these people with their all-too-transparent antisocial aims? Maybe readers in the States might like to write to her office and ask her

Vignette: Hilary and lookalike Kirsten (left) show their appreciation of the 2011 CPIA April Fool joke at the expense of the skeletal US
International Cultural Property Protection program, such as it is.

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